Each month we look for inspiring Coloradans to profile in our magazine. Risa Friskey has an exciting job as the Executive Producer of Colorado & Company, 9NEWS. In fact, I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest on the show to discuss our Denver Life Magazine monthly issues. Here’s a glimpse into her television role and why you should watch every day live at 10am on 9News & Noon on Channel 20.
How did you get into television production?
“At 22, I was on my way to becoming a buyer for a department store chain when I was struck with a dreadful thought, “I could spend my entire career going to market in Hoboken to buy men’s socks!” Nothing against socks, but it was time to either seriously claw for a sexier fashion career in New York City (which I had no idea how to achieve or where to start) or move back to Denver, watch TV and dream of something new. Ambitious but not foolhardy, I opted for the latter, and, as I watched television, especially local promotion and advertising, I realized, ‘I could do that.’
Naturally, management at the big three (before FOX was a thing) needed more convincing. My persistence paid off when I got a call from Jim Girodo, promotion manager at 9NEWS with the question, ‘Who are you and what do you want?’ Even though there were no positions available in the department, he agreed to meet me for an ‘informational’ interview. Whether he felt sorry for me or wanted to reward my moxie I still don’t know, but he granted me a 2-week temporary gig as a production assistant.
Hungry for more when the two weeks ran out I asked, ‘What should I do now?’ Jim replied, ‘Keep coming in until I tell you not to.’ That was September 1988. Looking back, Girodo was launching a sponsored program for kids called 9Pals that needed a producer, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I’m forever grateful to Jim and all the 9’ers who showed me the ropes over those early years. Today, I’m learning more than ever from my ambitious COCO team: Host, Claudia Garofalo, Director/Editor, Moss Cremer, Producer, Sidney Naliwajka, Producer/Correspondent, Dani Fried and Videographer/Editor, Adam Evans) as well as the brilliant colleagues with whom I have the privilege to work: Blair Nelson, Director of Brand and Marketing, Steve Chase, Director of Sales, Jerry Vancini, Senior Director, Misty Montano, Digital Director, and Mark Cornetta, Senior Vice President TEGNA and 9NEWS President and General Manager.”
What do you love about working in Denver?
“I’m what you call a semi-native… I moved here from Long Island, New York in 1974. At the time, I wondered where all the good pizza had gone (sometimes still do). However, I love everything about Denver. It’s built for professionals: trendy [and] easy to navigate with whatever we crave at our fingertips. We’re spoiled by this beautiful place and the glorious weather.”
What does your job entail?
“Since the pandemic, the entire Colorado & Company team has been working remotely. It’s a heavy technological lift to produce a television show when you’re not actually in a television station, but our engineering wizards move mountains every day to make it all work. COCO is a lifestyle/sales show, and as the Executive Producer, I oversee all aspects of the program from creating content, collaborating with our sales department, building relationships with our valued clients, setting strategic goals for the department and managing the growth of the team. I’m very excited to get back into the building and welcome our incredible guests into the studio once again for chats on the COCO couch.”
What do you love most about your profession?
“Think about the joy you feel when you learn something new from TV or the emotional investment you have in your favorite show. Those are positive, powerful, and captivating connections that are important aspects of our human condition. Colorado & Company is a vehicle for business people and leaders of organizations to talk face-to-face with thousands of viewers. As the daughter of small businessman, I admire the risks individuals take to do something great in this life—and I truly revel in the opportunity to help them achieve that goal. I live for the sheer creativity of it all, the craft, and the collaboration.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into television production?
“Anyone who wants to take on television should first understand how rapidly the business is evolving. You can’t make TV if you can’t make money, so learn how broadcasters and other agencies are turning profits. Secondly, watch television like a producer…with a discerning eye on the writing, shooting, editing, lighting, and direction. Mastering editing apps on your phone does not make you an expert on production! [Also] when you get a foot in the door, keep it there and learn from senior staff members. Let your passion for the craft show in positive ways and seek opportunities that will stretch your skill set. And lastly, keep a smile on your face and a good attitude. Do these things well and you’ll garner the attention of the most important person to your career—the person who believes you deserve a shot at the next big thing.”
Given the restrictions still in place at the station, how have you altered the way you do your job?
“Colorado & Company was live in-studio prior to the pandemic. We now pre-tape everything via virtual interview platforms and work remotely to assemble the entire show.”
Any final thoughts for our readers?
“With my fantastic husband and I both working from home due to the pandemic, we occasionally overhear each other’s day to day dealings. He said to me one night over dinner, ‘You’re really lucky to do what you love and be one of the best at it. Not everyone gets that in life.’”